Q. "A few weeks ago you wrote about specail classes in the public schools for gifted children and I'd like to know more about them. I hate to be a pushy mother and ask for test, but my 10-year old son seems to fit a lot of those categories you wrote about -- especially energy.
"Jimmy is always doing, doing, doing. He has to make 'scientific experiments' when he plants seeds; to whittle when he finds a stick; to write a funny story if he sees something odd on the bus. He reads constantly and has even read his whole set of Golden encyclopedias, although he doesn't make a big deal about it. However, it does mean that he has a lot to say about everything and my sister says he's turning into a wise guy, although I usually think he's a lot of fun."
A. He's probably both. If Jimmy were your sister's son she would think he was pretty terrific -- and you might think he was a wise guy. A gifted child is often both a charmer and a smart ass.
Don't worry whether anyone thinks you're a pushy mother. Your son is the one who counts and he sounds like a good bet for a special class.
Some experts say productivity is the hallmark of the gifted child. By giving him a few hours a week in a TAG class he not only can stretch his scope but he'll know the joy of good, hard work.
If you want to see how gifted children can produce together, you'll be interested in a small book called "It's a Kids' World," which sells for $3.95 in Gaithersburg at the Book Castle, the bookshop with the nifty Tuesday-morning story hour.
The book was one of a half-dozen projects of Paula Rehr's TAG class in creative writing at Ridgeway Junior High School in Gaithersburg and it's a sweet delight. The 14 ninth-grade students went to various day-care centers and interviewed children between 2 and 7. They arranged the interviews and the releases from parents; taped them and edited the selections, designed the book and drew the cover, and handled all the research to get it published, copyrighted and marketed.
But it was the questions they asked -- and the answers they chose -- that tell you almost as much about the way gifted children think as it tells you about the minds of small children.
The TAG class members asked for wishes and they got Steven, 5, who wanted a black and white striped talking zebra, and Abby, 5 1/2 who "would like to eat 500 hot dogs," because, she said, "It would make me grow into a grandmother."
When asked how favorite foods are made, Dara, 6, said to bake a chicken like this: "Put the whole chicken in the oven for 2 minutes at 100 degrees. Take it out and put it on the table. It cools for 3 hours, then it is eaten."
Abby, the hot-dog fancier, leaves the cooking to others, but says "they" make potato chips this way: "They take bannanas, they slice them and they cook them. And they're good! They are a Spanish food."
When asked what one must do to be a teacher, Lesli, 5, said, "Teachers should know how to draw zebras. They HAVE to know how to write. I think they should know how to do pluses."
And Jackie, also 5, says, "They have to know how to say, 'That's a good job. You're learning.' Teachers say that a lot."
The children were asked about the president, too, and thought his income ranged from 10 cents to a million dollars. Some seemed to think slavery was rampant. As Michelle, 7, said, "There would be no slaves and not hurting" if she were president -- instead of George Washington. Most of the children thought either he or Abraham Lincoln was in charge, but not Hugo, who, though only 4, picked Carter. On the other hand, he thought Carter had a lot of money -- 10 pennies -- and that "He works hard and he travels all over the world by flying on his ostrich."
And when the writing class asked the young children what pet they would like -- out of all the pets in the world -- a 2-year-old named Tawnjai said she wanted a blue animal, which she would keep "in a basket. A great big basket. A blue basket."
Noah, 5, said he "might like a talking mole," but his first choice was a mouse -- "an ordinary mouse, only it would be 2 feet tall, which is not unusual for a mouse, and it would stand on two legs."
He also would like a 6-foot centipede, who would be the leader centipede (it should go without saying).
And Logan, at 6, wanted a baby cheetah. He would feed it a zebra.
For all the charm of this book, and for all the support of the teacher and her principal, it is the editors who deserve the notice. Little children always have been amusing, but it took the special insights and productivity of the gifted to turn it into a book.